Victim, Her Family Shocked by Attack

John Branton, The Columbian (Vancouver, Washington), August 31, 2010

A Vancouver woman suffered severe burns Monday night when someone threw a caustic liquid in her face in an attack so unusual that a veteran police detective said he hadn’t heard of such a thing in 30 years working in Vancouver.

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“It’s very bizarre, very random and very weird, and we don’t understand it,” said Storro’s mother, Nancy Neuwelt, reached by phone while at Storro’s bedside.

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About 7:15 p.m. Monday, paramedics and police rushed to West Eighth and Columbia streets, near Esther Short Park. {snip}

Storro, a Vancouver resident like her mother, had been standing outside on the passenger side of her car, planning to get some coffee at the Starbucks there, Neuwelt said.

Neuwelt said Storro told her a woman whom Storro didn’t recognize walked up to her and said, “Hey, pretty girl. How are you? Would you like a drink of this?”

Storro, sensing something was wrong, declined the offer and the woman threw the liquid into her face.

Fortunately, Storro wore sunglasses that protected her eyes and she closed her eyes tight. She stooped down, Neuwelt said.

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Storro, screaming and in excruciating pain, “kind of remembers walking in circles,” Neuwelt said. “She felt like her heart stopped at one point.”

Storro ran and collapsed in pain. The bystander called 911 and also called Neuwelt, using Storro’s phone.

Paramedics rushed Storro to the hospital and a Vancouver police officer spent several hours there to begin the investigation into the attack.

On Tuesday, Detective Cpl. Wally Stefan with the police Major Crimes Unit took over the investigation.

Stefan said he had not heard of such a case here in 30 years with the Vancouver Police Department.

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The assailant was described as a black woman between 25 and 35, who wore a green shirt and khaki shorts. She had medium-length black hair that was pulled back, said Stefan, who is hoping for more information from the public.

Neuwelt said her daughter is single, has no children and had recently moved to Vancouver.

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Neuwelt said it was unusual that Storro was wearing the sunglasses that protected her eyes.

“She on a whim decided to buy a pair,” only about 20 minutes before the attack, Neuwelt said. “The weird thing is, she doesn’t like to wear sunglasses.”

She said she and her daughter believe God provided that help.

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Neuwelt said her daughter had never seen the assailant before, and it would be only speculation to try to explain a chemical attack she called “senseless.”

“It happens in the Middle East all the time,” the mother said.

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Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call detective Stefan at 360-487-7425.

storro

Bethany Storro.

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